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Right Royal Romantic Reunions (a Valentine story that is complete fiction) ….

A Right Romantic Royal Reunion

St Valentine’s Day in Leicester was all wind, rain and freezing cold temperatures, but the weather had not deterred the many people who had come to the King Richard III Visitor Centre. They were eager to see the exhibition about the man who had died in battle at nearby Bosworth in 1485, was lost for over five hundred years, and then found again, to be buried in 2015 in Leicester’s cathedral.

Of all the many displays, people most wanted to see Richard’s accurately modelled head, which stood on a plinth in a glass cabinet, with a beam of light directed from above. Richard, so reviled by Shakespeare and the Tudors, was now known not to have been a monster at all, but a handsome young man, whom thousands believed was a strong, good ruler. His increasing number of supporters insisted that had he lived, he would have been a truly great king. But, when a tragic widower of only thirty-two, he had been betrayed, killed in battle, and his crown usurped.

The rain was coming down even harder when the centre closed for the night, after which the only lighting was to aid the CCTV cameras that covered virtually every nook and cranny. Strange things were to happen before the Feast of St Valentine ended at midnight, but for some unknown reason, some of the cameras closed down for half an hour before midnight.

If they had gone on working, the resultant recording would have been sensational evidence of the existence of ghosts. Surprisingly, it would also prove that if history had not treated King Richard well, it had not been entirely fair to his usurping Tudor successor either. Well, in one respect, at least. In others the usurper was justifiably criticised.

Where the two spectral figures came from was impossible to say. They simply appeared at the stroke of half-past eleven, at the very moment the cameras switched off. One second there was no one by the model of Richard, the next a tall young man and dainty young woman were there, both dressed in 15th-century clothes of particular richness and beauty.

The man was slender, with reddish hair that clung about his shoulders. He wasn’t handsome, but arresting, with a thin, sallow visage, high cheekbones, and hooded, rather chilly eyes that were emphasised by his arched eyebrows. He gave a withdrawn impression, secretive and unhappy.

He wore costly black velvet trimmed with rare brown fur, and the heavy gilt collar across his shoulders was thick with amethysts, rubies and pearls. The same precious jewels adorned the brooch on his soft black hat. Anyone who knew their history would immediately recognise the young King Henry VII, Lancastrian founder of the House of Tudor, and the very usurper who had stolen Richard’s crown. Supposedly, his usurpation had ended the civil strife we now call the Wars of the Roses.

Henry, who was cordially loathed by Richard’s army of modern-day supporters, had been very ill and in pain when he died in April 1509 at the age of fifty-two. Tonight, however, he was no more than thirty again, his constitution strong..

The woman at his side was small and dainty, with a pale, oval face, shaved forehead and fair hair that was completely hidden beneath a short hennin headdress draped behind with a white gauze veil. A diamond-shaped golden pendant, with a magnificent sapphire, rested prettily against her forehead, and she carried a fresh white rose, symbol of the House of York, to which she belonged. Fixed to the bodice of her golden gown was a costly brooch in the form of a white boar, and beneath it an enamelled red heart with the letter ‘R’ picked out in diamonds. The boar was the personal cognizance of her husband, King Richard III, and the red heart had been the last Valentine gift he had given to her.

Queen Anne Neville had fallen victim to consumption not long before her husband’s terrible betrayal at Bosworth in 1485. Their only child, the little Prince of Wales, had passed away before her, so Richard had been a lonely man, deep in grief, when he defended his crown, his realm and his life that dreadful August day. Anne had been only twenty-eight when she had to begin her next existence so prematurely, but now, on this St Valentine’s Night, she was twenty again, fresh and lovely.

That Anne and Henry were an unlikely pair to stand together was obvious enough, because they had never met in life, and if they had, they would have been bitter enemies. But here they were, strangers, obliged by the dictates and whims of the hereafter to come to this particular place on this particular night in an attempt to be reunited with their lost spouses. Their chance of success did not seem good, after all, five hundred years had passed and for some unknown reason, they were both still alone. Anne had some hopes of the coming minutes, but Henry was resigned to failure.

They were decidedly awkward in each other’s company. So much so, that Anne was waspish. “There are countless people I would prefer be with on St Valentine’s Night than you, Henry Tudor.”

“The feeling is mutual, madam. I consider myself to have drawn the short straw, not only having you to contend with, but your cursed husband as well. His is the very last face on earth I wish to see.”

“And his very nearly was the last face you saw,” Anne replied.

He ignored the jibe about his close call at Bosworth, where another yard or so would have seen Richard despatching him to oblivion. “Besides,” he continued, “you are actually immaterial, because it’s my tiresome wife I want a word with.”

“Poor woman.”

“What about me?” Henry clearly felt hard done by.

“You? You’re just a parsimonious misery.”

“That’s what everyone says, and you’re all wrong.” He looked at Richard again. “Plague take the fellow,” he muttered.

Anne smiled lovingly at her husband’s likeness, wishing it were the complete living man again. How she longed for that, especially on this, the most romantic of all nights. Instead, she had Henry Tudor to put up with.

Henry was still grumbling. “What chance did I stand against such a rival? I could never win hearts as he did. The plaguey fellow’s still winning them now, half a millennium later.”

“Well, you didn’t even try, did you? You were—and still are—a scowling, frost-faced, unsympathetic, totally unloveable so-and-so, padding around your palaces like a hound with toothache.”

“I did have toothache.”

“Even so, it was your choice to be all the rest, so how you can stand here now and complain, I really do not know.”

Henry glowered. One of his eyes had a cast, which gave him a most disconcerting appearance.

Anne couldn’t resist goading him. “The wrong man lost at Bosworth, Henry, and he lost it because of heinous treachery.”

He groaned. “Oh, don’t start all that again. I know the Yorkist bleat by heart. Why can’t you admit that if the situation had been reversed, your dear Richard would have done as I did.”

Her eyes flashed. “Except for the dishonourable crime of flinging you naked over a horse, your body mutilated and disgraced.”

“I regret that.”

She made a disparaging, disbelieving noise, and turned her back on him to go closer to Richard. Her hand passed effortlessly through the protective glass cabinet, to touch the model’s cold, unyielding cheek. “Oh, my darling, most beloved Richard. I’ve been waiting so long for you,” she murmured, forgetting Henry entirely as she caressed the face. “But now you have been found again and buried properly, I hope we can be reunited at last. Please, my love.”

Her fingers traced adoringly over the unresponsive features, and then moved to the brooch in the velvet hat. It was such an insultingly cheap, over-large thing, with fake stones. Richard would never have worn something that vulgar and big. He had too much style and taste. She flicked the pendant pearl at the bottom, remembering that other, more joyous St Valentine’s Day, when she had presented the original to him. He had embraced her and kissed her lips right there, in front of the crowded great hall at Middleham. Such festivities had taken place that evening of romance, happiness and contentment. Such lovemaking when the curtains of the bed were eventually drawn, and they were alone at last . . .

Henry watched her. “I fail to see why you couldn’t have been reunited before. You knew where he was.” It wasn’t said unpleasantly, just curiously.

She gave him a dark glance. “Because you hid him away, and buried him ignominiously in a grave totally unworthy of a King of England. He and I would have been reunited immediately if he’d been laid to rest publicly and with respect. Being concealed like that has kept his soul here, instead of being freed to enjoy his second life in the hereafter. With me. And our son, who waits as well. Richard was incarcerated underground for all those centuries, but when they found him again and made this likeness, he somehow became trapped inside it. No one really knows what happened, just that this is where he is now.”

She paused to blink tears away, and then turned another accusing glare upon Henry. “Yet I notice you gave yourself an ostentatious tomb of almost ridiculous splendour, and are able to enjoy your second life as you please. You really are a horrid person, Henry Tudor.”

“Thank you so much.” He sketched a mocking bow, but then held up his hands in surrender. “Oh, very well, mea culpa, a thousand times over, but it does not explain why I have not been reunited with Bess.”

“Ah.”

“What is ‘ah’ supposed to mean?” he demanded suspiciously. “You know something, don’t you?”

“Well, yes, actually. She’s avoiding you.”

He looked blank. “Avoiding me? I don’t believe you.”

“Please yourself. But it’s true. She had more than enough of your miserable ways in life. Now, every time she sees you looming on the horizon, she hides until you’ve gone again.”

“She . . . has no reason to feel that way,” Henry answered haltingly.

Anne was taken aback to see true hurt in his eyes. “Oh, think a little, sir! You kept such a tight hold upon your purse strings that she had to all but pay to breathe your air.”

His hurt intensified. “That is not so! Truly it is not. I pandered to her whims. I paid her gambling debts—which were HUGE!—and I let her have those unnecessarily expensive greyhounds. All one hundred of them! I always provided for her. And cherished her, which is more than she ever did me.”

“She says you were grudging and always lecturing her. According to her, you didn’t love her at all, and your . . . well, your attentions in the marital bed were cursory and efficient. Not in the least gentle and considerate.”

Henry’s lips had parted in dismay. “You seem intent upon believing her, but what she says is not true. Love, hate. So close, are they not?”

Anne was unsettled by his reaction, and as he walked away to a nearby exhibit, she leaned closer to Richard. “Do you think maybe Bess of York has been fibbing a little? Heaven forfend, of course.”

But Richard did not respond. He remained a cold, hard model on a plinth. Even his wig was the wrong colour, she thought. Far too straight and dark. His real hair had been a rich, deep chestnut, wavy, thick and heavy. Oh, how she had loved to run her fingers through it. Well, to be honest, she had loved to run her fingers over all of him. Every delicious inch.

His hair might not have been correctly depicted, but his face was. Well, except for the eyebrows, which were surely based upon the largest, furriest caterpillars in creation. Richard’s eyebrows had been smooth and cared for. Next she looked at the model’s blue eyes, but his eyes had been grey. She drew herself up sharply. No! His eyes were still grey, for he would come to her again. He was not going to stay in the past, or in this model. She wouldn’t allow it!

Words whispered to him in life now returned to her lips. “Oh, prithee Richard, your Anne would be your Valentine again.”

As she fingered her red heart brooch, a gift from him, she could almost hear his laughing reply as he pinned it there. “Your Valentine again? Sweetheart mine, you are always my Valentine, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month of every year.”

He had been a prince among men, and she had never been worthy of him. Fresh tears filled her eyes. “I failed you as a wife, my love,” she murmured, swallowing as a lump rose in her throat. “I gave you only one son, and it was not enough. Then we both left you on your own, surrounded by traitors and unworthy foes. Forgive me, for I still love you so very much.”

Henry was close enough to hear, and turned to her. “Speaking as one of those unworthy foes, I wish to point out that yours was a political alliance, as was mine.”

“No!”

“Yes.”

“You do not know anything about my marriage,” she declared.

“Hmm, yet you know all about mine, it would seem.”

She looked at him. “Perhaps I should not have spoken as I did.”

He inclined his head with that odd grace that was always his mark. “You judge me, but only have my wife’s testimony. I know your marriage to Richard was a calculated alliance on both your parts, for it’s as plain as the proverbial pikestaff. That you came to love each other deeply I do not doubt at all, indeed I am fully prepared to believe it. Yet you do not seem able to credit me with similar actions and feelings.”

Anne did not know what to say, because the man before her now was so very human that it did not seem possible he could be Henry Tudor.

He drew a long breath, leaned back against a display table, and folded his arms. “I married Bess because I had to, I admit it, but I soon loved her. She, however, remained cold, and refused to see my honest emotion. ‘Doing her duty’ was her creed, and she made no move to make the marriage more than a mere contract. She was Elizabeth Plantagenet, the White Rose of York, proud and disdainful, and never once wished her pristine petals to be joined with mine in the Tudor rose. It broke my heart when she died, but it would seem now that she departed gladly. Anything to get away from me. And so she breaks my heart again. Believe her if you wish—if you must—but at least remember that whatever it was she believes she endured at my hands, I endured it ten times over at hers.”

Anne could hear the pain in his voice, almost to the point of feeling it herself, and it affected her in a way she would never have expected. She felt sympathy—no, compassion! She, Anne Neville, was deeply affected by his private and very genuine distress.

Henry fished something from his purse. It was a beautifully embroidered silk badge . . . no, not a badge exactly, Anne thought, for it was heart-shaped. As she watched, he pinned it to his sleeve, and she saw it showed a likeness of Bess, with roses—white and Tudor—and the initials ‘E’ and ‘H’. He spoke quietly. “There, you see? I wear my heart on my sleeve.”

Then he moved away, pretending to examine other displays. Except for the silk heart, there was once again nothing to suggest he was anything other than the cool, calm, collected and controlled Henry Tudor to whom everyone was accustomed.

Anne glanced at Richard again. “I think we may wrong him in this particular respect, my love. Not in everything else, of course, but where love is concerned . . .” She didn’t finish.

The model did not move. There was no softening into living flesh, nor did its eyes meet hers or its lips part to speak. It was Richard, and yet it was not. She needed to be in his arms again, to feel his heart beat next to hers, and the warmth of his body in the secret night. His freedom to live his second life was everything to her now. As she, Henry and Bess already lived again, so he should too. It was so very lonely without him, and now, on the Feast of St Valentine, the sense of loss and echoing heartache was almost intolerable.

“Oh, why will you not come to me now?” she asked softly, not wanting Henry to hear again. “We have been apart for too many centuries. You have to come to me. If you do not, I will never forgive you!”

But nothing happened. There seemed no life within that beautiful image that tortured her with its close resemblance to the greatest love of her life. The only love of her life. Her heart was heavy as she drew a fingertip across his lips. “I cannot go on without you, Richard. Come to me. Please. Please!”

Henry spoke just behind her. “You and I have clearly done something wrong, my lady, for we are both to be refused the reunion we seek so earnestly.”

She gave such a start that he touched her hand apologetically. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I thought you realized I’d returned.”

“No, I didn’t.” She struggled to compose herself again. “Forgive me, I was lost in thought.”

“I can understand. There he is, so near and yet so very, very far.”

She nodded. That was just how Richard was to her.

He spoke sadly. “More than anything, I want to say to Bess the words I never said to her in life, that I love her. She may not want to hear it, indeed, she clearly does not, but I need to say it.”

Anne’s lips wobbled, and she burst into tears, because his sorrow had become hers. Henry hesitated, and then pulled her to him in a gesture of kindness and comfort. He was careful not to crush the white rose she carried, knowing that such a catastrophe would not go down well. “What a sorry pair we are,” he said. “Both of us needing our proud Plantagenet spouse, and both denied the solace we desire so very much.”

Her tears increased. She was overwhelmed that such complete understanding should be shared with Richard’s ultimate foe. At this moment, Henry Tudor offered the support that was suddenly essential to her.

He smiled a little. “How cruel fate can be. We have been sent here on this, of all days, and yet it seems that no matter what, we will be refused the easing of our hearts.”

“Maybe not this time. Maybe tonight we will find them again.” Sniffing, she stepped back to search in her purse for a kerchief that proved elusive.

He pressed his own into her hand, and winced a little as she blew her nose into it noisily. The finest, rarest, most heavenly silk—so costly!—and she— Well, no matter. What did anything really matter now?

Anne looked up at him gratefully. “I could almost like you.”

“I might say the same of you, my lady. Richard was a fortunate man. Well, in his marriage, at least.” Henry cleared his throat awkwardly, because for him to name Richard III as fortunate was surely inappropriate in the extreme.

Anne summoned a little smile. “I never thought I would say this, Henry Tudor, but I hope you find Bess and are able to tell her you love her. I really do wish it. If I see her, I will tell her she must be kind to you.”

He smiled again and kissed her hand. “Thank you, Lady Anne, and let me wish you success in regaining Richard.”

There was a soft sound from the cabinet, and Anne noticed to her astonishment that Richard’s hat brooch had fallen on to the plinth. “How . . . odd,” she said.

“Well, you were toying with it,” Henry pointed out sensibly.

He was right. She must have dislodged it.

Henry drew a long breath. “In our different ways, and after all this time, we deserve some happiness, don’t you think?”

“Yes. Henry, I—” She broke off as his gaze suddenly darted past her, towards one of the few shadowy corners where the lighting did not penetrate. “What is it?” she asked nervously, shrinking close to him again.

“There’s someone there,” he said softly. “It . . . it looks like—” His breath caught as a figure moved into the light. A beautiful woman, perhaps a little embonpoint, but unmistakably his beloved Bess of York.

She came closer, the rustle of her kingfisher silk gown audible in the silence. She too was young and lovely again, her red-gold hair cascading to her waist, and her eyes very blue. “Henry?” she said softly.

He gazed at her, unable to speak or move. Five hundred years was a long, long time.

“Oh, Henry, please forgive me,” Bess breathed.

Now his were the eyes that brimmed with tears.

She held out her hands. “Forgive me for never understanding. Come to me now. I will never spurn you again or do anything to hurt you. I love you too, you silly Welsh pudding, but you never once said the right thing at the right time.”

He hesitated. “And the right thing to say now is . . . ?”

“You know what it is.”

“I love you, Bess of York. I love you completely and always have.”

His queen extended her arms, and Anne gave him a gentle push. She watched as they clung together in an embrace that was centuries overdue, but then they began to fade from view. First she could see through them, and at the very moment their lips met, they disappeared completely.

The Visitor Centre seemed suddenly very empty. Or was it? Anne could hear her own heart beating, but was another beating too? One that she could sense, but not quite hear? She did not dare to turn towards the display cabinet again, for fear that he would be the same as before, a mere model, with the wrong eyes and hair, awful eyebrows and no life at all.

“Oh, Anne,” his voice said softly, “do you have so little hope of me?”

Her eyes closed. Please do not let her be imagining it.

“Anne?”

“I . . . am afraid to turn, Richard, because I fear you will not really be here.”

“Did Henry just imagine his Bess?”

“No, for I saw and heard them both.”

“You hear me, sweetheart, so turn . . . and see me too.”

“I cannot,” she whispered.

“Do you remember how we exchanged red hearts that St Valentine Day in York? I pinned one to your gown, and you wear it still. But do you recall what happened to the other?”

“I . . . yes, I fixed it to your hat.”

“Where it is now. Turn, sweetheart.”

Slowly, shakily, she did as he asked, and at first experienced sharp dismay that the model was still in the cabinet, seeming unchanged. But then a movement nearby caught her full attention. There he was, the complete man, her perfect, imperfect Richard! Slender and almost fragile, smiling, his wonderful grey eyes alight with all that he felt for her.

His lean, fine-boned face was as matchless as ever, and his hair was dark chestnut again, falling in those sensuous waves that always invited her playful, adoring fingers. She could only stare, still fearing he was imagined; that he was her intense love conjured into light, but lacking substance. Yet the red heart was pinned to his hat.

He gazed at her. “My dearest love, I have so yearned for this moment.”

She remained uncertain. “But, why . . . after all this time?” she whispered. “Is it that you have now had an honourable interment?”

“No, sweetheart, it is because you and Henry wished each other well and meant it in your hearts. That is all. You were sent tonight to understand and like each other. It was the hereafter’s chosen way to free me and open Bess’s eyes. All four of us, brought together forever on St Valentine’s Night.”

“Forever? You really will be allowed your second life now?” she ventured timidly.

“Forever, my beloved. Unless . . . maybe you don’t want me after all?” He was teasing, but she did not realise.

“Not want you? I will always want you! Everything that you are! Everything!” she cried.

Then she saw his loving smile, and something seemed to burst with joy inside her. She flung herself into his arms so fiercely that she almost knocked him over. His embrace enclosed her tightly, and she raised her lips to be kissed. Oh, such a kiss, so longed for and imagined countless times, so dreamed about and yearned for through centuries. And now, so well worth the waiting.

Her body felt as if it were melting, becoming one with his, and love keened wildly through them both. She was suddenly so ridiculously, foolishly, exhilaratingly alive again that those empty centuries might never have been. King Richard III and his queen were reunited, and eternity now stretched gloriously before them.

Midnight began to strike, and she realized they were beginning to fade as Henry and Bess had before them. For a moment her thoughts turned to that other king, and the warmth with which he had comforted her. She sent a thought to find its way to him. ”Thank you, Henry Tudor.”

His happy reply winged back. “No, thank you, Lady Anne.”

The following morning, when the CCTV cameras were checked, as they were every day, it was discovered that those in the vicinity of Richard’s likeness had ceased to operate half an hour before midnight, but then resumed as normal immediately after the last stroke of the hour. It was also found that the king’s hat adornment had somehow fallen.

A middle-aged female assistant unlocked the cabinet to restore the brooch to its proper place on the hat, pinning it with the same great care she knew she’d shown before. “That’s odd,” she murmured to the colleague with her.

“You can’t have put it on properly the first time,” the young blonde friend at her side responded, and then laughed. “Or perhaps there was an earthquake.”

“The alarms would have gone off,” the first woman pointed out practically.

The other rolled her eyes. “It was a joke. I know Leicester isn’t the earthquake capital of the world,” she replied.

“Oh. Anyway, I’m not talking about the brooch having fallen, more that I feel sure there’s something different about him this morning.”

The other pursed her lips and tilted her head to study the model. “What do you mean? He looks the same as always to me. Must have been a tasty man in life, eh?” She laughed.

“What I mean is that he no longer seems to be inside.”

“Don’t be daft. He never was, poor chap.”

“No, I suppose not.”

The friend glanced at her watch. “I’m late! See you later.”

“Yes. Bye for now.” The first woman continued to look at the model’s handsome but inscrutable face. “You have gone, haven’t you, Richard?” she whispered. “Oh, I’ll miss you so much.” With a sigh, she adjusted the hat fondly, and then locked the cabinet again.

JAMES 1st – A ROYAL GOOSEBERRY

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Entrance to the tomb of Henry Vll as seen on the opening of the vault in 1869.  Drawing by George Scarf.  

How did James I come to be interred in Henry Vll’s vault?  Unfortunately it’s not known,  but we do know how it was discovered to be the case.  In 1868, Dean Stanley’s attention was drawn to conflicting reports of  the whereabouts of James’ and his Queen, Anne of Denmark’s vault.    Recognising the importance of ‘the knowledge of the exact spots where the illustrious dead repose’ (1) Dean Stanley resolved to get to the bottom of it.

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Dean Stanley

Although it had been noted  by one brief line in the Abbey’s register that James had been buried in Henry’s vault, ‘This was not enough for  Dean Stanley.  He loved exploring and he pursuaded himself that he must first eliminate all other possible places by opening up each of the Royal vaults in turn’ (2).  Vault after vault was opened, some were empty, some crammed full.  The coffins were discovered of a multitude of royal and noble personages including Mary, Queen of Scots (Dean Stanley thought James might have been interred with his mother),  Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth, the latter ‘s coffin on top of the other, Edward Vl, the numerous children of James II and of Queen Anne, and many others too numerous to mention here.  The vault of Anne of Denmark was also found, her coffin standing alone besides the empty space where James, her husband, should have been.  Where was he?

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James lst painted by Daniel Mytens

Laurence Tanner, Keeper of the Muniments and Librarian,  Westminster Abbey,  wrote ‘Night after night the Dean with a few of the Abbey staff was able to carry out his self-imposed task undisturbed.  On one occasion the historian Froude was present.  Speaking of it afterward he said ‘it was the weirdest scene – the flaming torches, the banners waving from the draught of air, and the Dean’s keen, eager face seen in profile had the very strangest effect.  He asked me to return with him the next night, but my nerves had had enough of it’.  (3)

At last, with nowhere else left to look, the actual vault of Henry was opened and to the Dean’s surprise, if not perhaps to that of others, James was found!  It was discovered on examination of the lead coffins therein , that Elizabeth’s had been slightly damaged at the top, possibly when it was removed to allow James’ in and then she was replaced, being rather squashed into the space between the two kings.  Its easy to imagine Henry spinning in his  coffin, as, after the enormous expense of his funeral, he and his Queen are now sharing their tomb with a gooseberry, albeit a royal one.  And here they are…

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  1. Dean Stanley, Westminster Abbey, p.651
  2. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177
  3. Laurence Tanner, Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary, p.177

 

 

YORK OR LANCASTER: WHO WAS THE RIGHTFUL KING OF ENGLAND?

Part 2 – For a kingdom any oath may be broken – York’s title 1460

 

Introduction

This is an essay about the legitimacy of the duke of York’s title to the English crown. I am not going to delve into the duke’s motive for claiming the crown, or into the details of the rebellion that led to his claim. I have covered both these issues in previous posts on this site[1].

Who was the true king of England: the Lancastrian Henry VI or his cousin Richard duke of York? That was the question uppermost in the minds of the lords spiritual and temporal in parliament in the autumn of 1460.[2] They were debating this question because: “…In October the duke of York came over from Ireland to Westminster at the beginning of parliament and as soon as he had entered the upper chamber of the royal palace, where the lords spiritual and temporal were sitting, he approached the royal throne and claimed the seat as his own; he put forward an account of his descent from Lionel duke of Clarence, to whose successors, he said, the kingdom of England belonged, since he was the elder, rather than to the descendants of John duke of Lancaster, the younger brother from whom king Henry was descended.[3] It was a claim as dramatic as it was unexpected and parliament was fully occupied for three weeks discussing the duke’s lineage and his rights.

The outcome of their discussion was so disconcerting to the anonymous author of

‘A Short Latin Chronicle’ that he lapsed into English when writing about it: ”Wherefore the king understanding the said title of the said duke [to be] just, lawful, and true and sufficient by the advice and assent of his Lords spiritual and temporal and the commons in the parliament and by the authority of the same parliament, approves, ratifies, confirms and accepts the said title (as) just, good, lawful and thereunto gives his assent and agreement of his free will and liberty. And moreover it is said by advice and authority, declared, called, established, affirmed, and reputed that the said Richard duke of York (is) very true and rightful heir to the crown of England and France.”[4] Everything is in the duke’s favour except the outcome. His title to the throne is thrice lawful; the Lancastrians are thrice usurpers. Nonetheless, York is not to be crowned until after Henry is dead. It was a recipe for disaster.

York was ten years older than Henry and statistically, at least, unlikely to outlive him. More importantly, the queen and her disinherited son were still at large with an armed force, embittered and well able to oppose this Act of Accord. Not for the first time, nor for the last, an English parliament had managed to make a bad situation worse. The only royal settlement likely to subsist now was one settled on a battlefield. Moreover, the Act of Accord presents a constitutional conundrum. If parliament judged York’s title to be unbeatable, why did they not give effect to their judgment? And, if York believed in the truth and justice of his title, why did he agree to bend his knee to the usurping Henry? The answers to these questions lie in the politics of the day.

York’s Petition

York submitted his written claim on the 16 October 1460[5]. It had the virtue of simplicity, being based solely on his hereditary right of succession. The only evidence adduced was York’s lineage. The main thrust of his case was that in 1399, when king Richard II was deposed, Henry of Lancaster seized the throne, which more properly belonged to Edmund Mortimer earl of March who was descended (through his grandmother Philippa) from Lionel duke of Clarence the third son of king Edward III; whereas, Henry of Lancaster was descended from John duke of Lancaster the king’s fourth son.

The Lords’ objections

The king, who was consulted next day, requested the lords to state objections to Yorks claim.[6] The lords prevaricated. They asked the king’s justices for advice. The justices declined to give it on the grounds that the succession was above the common law, and beyond their jurisdiction and competence. The sergeants-at-law also refused to give their counsel; they argued that if the succession was too weighty for the king’s justices, it was surely above the sergeants’ learning and authority. It seems that only those of the blood royal, and the lords spiritual and temporal were qualified to solve this problem. Freedom of speech was allowed and each lord was to put forward whatever he could to strengthen the king’s title and to defeat York’s. Eventually, five objections were raised:

  • First, the lords were bound to remember the great oaths of fealty that they had sworn to the king. These oaths argued against York’s claim since they could not be broken.
  • Second, the great and noble acts of parliament (unspecified) made in various earlier parliaments could be used against York’s title. Being statutes, these acts carried far more authority than any chronicle and defeated any claim made by any person.
  • Third, similarly, the various entails (again unspecified) made by the heirs male with regard to the crown of England argued against Yorks title, as may appear in various chronicles and parliaments
  • Fourth, York did not bear the arms of Lionel duke of Clarence; and
  • Fifth, Henry succeeded to the throne as the heir of king Henry III, and not as a conqueror

 

York’s response to the objections

The matter of oaths was important, which is why it was the first objection. Although it did not go directly to the merit of York’s title, it was a considerable barrier to the success of his claim. The lords were concerned about two things. First, their own oaths of allegiance to Henry as king “by succession, borne to reign” and to his son Prince Edward, which they had sworn less than twelve months previously at Coventry. Second, they were reminding York of his own oaths of allegiance and obedience, and many protestations of loyalty made to the king over the last decade. The breaking of these oaths was not merely a religious impropriety; it was sinfulness, the breaking of God’s law. To be forsworn was to court eternal damnation.

York responded in kind. He acknowledged every man’s duty to uphold God’s law and Commandments. However, he distinguished between oaths that preserve truth and justice and oaths that promote untruth and injustice. The first kind is obedient to Gods law, which prefers truth and justice; whereas, the second kind is contrary to God’s law. Moreover, since no man can absolve himself from obedience to God’s law to uphold truth and justice and since the oaths referred to by the lords are of the second kind, they are void and of no effect. An oath of allegiance does not bind a man to do anything unfitting or unlawful.

Despite the spiritual views expressed by both sides, Yorks final sentence contained an unmistakable temporal message for the king and his lords. It was a principle York had expressed in an open letter to the king just before first St Albans (1455). Whilst emphasizing, yet again, that he and his followers are the king’s true liegemen ready to live and die in his service he added “…to do all things as shall like your majesty to command us, if it be to the worship of the crown and the welfare of your noble realm (my emphasis).” York was putting conditions on his loyalty and obedience. He was making an important distinction between the institution of ‘the crown’ and the person of the king, and between them both and the rights of the realm. The implication is that although ‘royal authority’ is vested personally in the king, he must behave in accordance with the accepted norms of English monarchs as expressed in the coronation oath that binds them all. York is also introducing the concept of the ‘realm’ of England as a political entity distinct from the monarchy. It has its own rights to which the crown is ultimately responsible. This was more than just a device to protect him from accusations of treason or ‘oath-breaking’; it represents a fundamental tenet of England’s constitution, which we see put most forcibly in Magna Carta.

The second and third objections raise a significant constitutional issue. The key question is whether the Act of 1406, which gave statutory recognition to Henry IV’s title, was the final authority on the issue of succession. The lords obviously thought so, since they argued that it was of an “ authority to defeat any kind of title made to any person”. Having pointed out correctly that the only statute or entail made by any parliament in the past was the Act of 1406, York based his case on two mutually supporting grounds. First, if Henry IV’s title were valid as claimed, he would neither have needed nor wanted statutory recognition of it. Second, his own title being true according to God’s law and natural law was imperishable, even though it had not been asserted earlier. Henry’s title, however, was pretense and in passing the statute, parliament had recognized a title that Henry was not entitled to. The Inheritance Act of 1406 was, therefore, ultra vires. From a constitutional perspective, this was an important development; the theory of a parliamentary title was being subordinated to a theory that God’s law of inheritance determined the succession. York was not impugning the authority of statutes generally; he was simply saying that even though a statute (or an entail) might be binding in normal circumstances, it could not stand against his divine right of inheritance[7].

On the fourth objection that York did not wear the livery of his ancestor Lionel, his answer was predictable. The fact that he didn’t wear that livery did not mean he was not entitled to. He did not wear it for the same reason he had forborn from claiming the crown earlier, and which reason was well known.

The last objection was that Henry took the throne as the rightful heir to Henry III and not as conqueror[8]. York rejected this objection outright. It is simply not true, he said, that Henry IV was the lawful heir to Henry III “…and the opposite, which is the truth shall be readily enough shown, proved and justified by adequate authority and as a matter of record”. He added that Henry’s words were fraudulent and meant to disguise his “…violent and unlawful usurpation” from the people.

The Act of Accord

The Official account of the lords’ “sad and ripe communicacion in this matere[9] is brief but illuminating. The tension at Westminster is palpable. Under pressure from York to bring the matter to a rapid conclusion, the Chancellor seems on the verge of panic. He is desperate for a result that will reconcile York’s ‘unbeatable’ title with the lords corporate obligation to protect the common weal of the realm, their personal duty to king Henry and their consciences. The Chancellor proposed that Henry should retain the crown during his lifetime and when he dies, York should succeed him. It is, the Chancellor suggests, a resolution that avoids the trouble that might ensue, saves the king’s honour, preserves his dignity and estate, and may appease the duke of York — if he agrees! It also means the lords will not have broken the oaths they swore to the king at Coventry. The Chancellors plaintive call for anybody with a better idea to come forward is testament to his despair; as also, is his plea that the lords should stand by him when he explains the situation to the king. For want of something better, the lords readily agree to this outcome.

In truth, there was no appetite to depose a crowned and anointed king who had reigned for thirty-eight years, no matter how grave were his faults[10]. Although the lords sympathized with York’s predicament, they regarded his claim as inopportune. Notwithstanding the legality of his title, he was unable to overcome fifteenth century realpolitik. It was further confirmation that the succession was a political and not a legal process. For the lords the overriding consideration was to preserve the peace of the realm. It is a consideration that ordinarily would protect them from accusations of inconsistency and bad faith; however, in reality they were simply evading the issue and not solving the problem. Only the complete destruction of the Queen’s party or the Yorkists had any hope of procuring an effective peace. Furthermore, the disinheritance of the Prince of Wales guaranteed the continuance of war.

The historical opinion of York’s behaviour is unforgiving. At the time, the Lancastrians depicted him as a hypocrite whose claim to the crown was based on personal ambition and not on the common interest. Many modern historians endorse that view and it is easy to understand why. He swore at least two oaths of allegiance to the king and one of allegiance and obedience, and he made numerous declarations of his loyalty; yet in the end, he tried to depose Henry. York’s integrity can only be defended by examining his motives, which is outside my scope. Therefore, I will not comment on these accusations save to add a health warning. Most, if not all, of this opinion is derived from Lancastrian propaganda. The Yorkist counter-claims are clearly set out in the many political manifestos they produced during the 1450’s. These contained Yorkist propaganda for sure, but a balanced view of what was happening is only possible by considering both sides of the argument.

That said, I do believe that York’s action in accepting the Act of Accord, and his motive for so doing have been misconstrued by some historians. Parliament, it seems, is absolved from acting inconsistently or in bad faith because they moved to preserve the peace; whereas York is denounced for doing the same thing.[11] It is a strange judgment that simultaneously acquits the lords and convicts York for keeping the peace.

He had “taken the moral high ground and promptly compromised” writes John Watts, adding that “under the terms of his own argument, Duke Richard could not bind himself to the deferment of his right during Henry’s lifetime: any oath to do so would be contrary to God’s law and hence null and void.” The professor adds with a flourish “what true king would agree to be subject to a usurper?[12] The notion that York was prevented from accepting the Act of Accord since, on his own argument, it was untruthful and contrary to God’s law, is a shallow one. It ignores the reality of York’s situation and does his argument on the matter of oaths a disservice. The succession cannot be considered in the vacuum of religious doctrine, moral rectitude or personal right. It is, I repeat, a political process, not a legal or religious one. From York’s perspective, this action had been forced on him by constitutional system that made it impossible for him to protest against the excesses of a corrupt and incompetent Lancastrian regime and the breakdown in law and order, without committing treason. York’s cause of action had never been against the king, but against those household servant and royal favourites who abrogated royal authority.

For ten years York championed the cause of good governance in the common interest but he had achieved nothing, other than a reputation as an incorrigible rebel. This was the opportunity to put both the will and the means for good governance in one person. There is no discord between his argument on oaths and his acceptance of a compromise. Whilst the Act of Accord fell short of his objective, it commanded the most support and was self evidently in the common interest. It would indeed have been contrary to God’s law for York to insist on the strict letter of his right at this time and against the wishes of the English lords. He realized he lacked the broad spectrum of support necessary to depose Henry. The change from being the king’s true liegeman to wanting to replace him was too much too soon even for many of York’s supporters. The fact that this desire for a peaceful outcome was futile is neither here nor there from York’s perspective. Since he could do nothing to guarantee the pacification of Lancastrian dissidence, he could at least ensure his own good intentions.

Ultimately, York’s challenge ended in failure. A successful strategy depended on speed and surprise ‘…a speedy coronation; the swift removal of Henry…’[13] Once York was forced to claim the throne rather than seize it, his enemies had time to concert their opposition to him. However, by establishing the superiority of his title over the Lancastrians, York paved the way for his son Edward to seize the throne in 1461.

[1] See Richard 3rd duke of York (2) ‘The king’s true liegeman’ – 10 February 2015; and (3) ‘The man who would be king’ 8 March 2015 https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/

[2] Chris Given-Wilson (Ed) – The Parliamentary Rolls of Medieval England (Boydell Press 2005): Anne Curry and Rosemary Horrox (Eds) Volume 12 pp. 509-510 (introduction) and 516 to 521 (PROME). York claimed the throne on the 10 October 1460. His written petition to parliament was read aloud on the 16 October 1460. It was the petition that the Lords spiritual and temporal were considering.

[3] Nicholas Cox and John Cox – The Crowland Chronicle Continuations (Richard III and Yorkist History Trust 1986) p111.

[4] James Gairdner- Three Fifteenth Century Chronicles (The Camden Society 1880) pp.170-71; the full title of the ‘Latin chronicle’ is ‘Compilatio de gestus Britonum et Anglorum’ (MS Arundel 5 College of Arms).

[5] PROME Vol 12, ibid: see also Margaret Lucille Kekewich et al (eds.) – The Politics of Fifteenth Century England: John Vale’s Book (Allan Sutton Publishing 1995) p 195 (ff.130v–134/111v–115. The title and claim of the crown by Richard duke of York in the 39th year of king Henry VI))

[6] PROME Vol 12, ibid; the lords spiritual and temporal were commanded to find “…the strongest objections to defend the king’s right and title and to defeat the title and claim of the said duke of York.”

[7] SB Chrimes – English Constitutional Ideas in the 15th Century (Cambridge 1936) pp.27-30. This paragraph is based on Professor Chrimes’ lucid and succinct explanation, which has stood the test of time.

[8] The lords were wrong; Henry also claimed the throne as conqueror.

[9] PROME Vol 12; ibid

[10] Unlike, the deposition of Edward II, and the deposition of Richard II, there was no case against Henry VI of willful incompetence or tyranny. In fact he seems to have been a good, almost saintly, man personally. A regency government could have adequately managed during his periodic spells of mental infirmity.

[11] PROME, Vol 12 p 524. It is quite clear from the Parliamentary Roll that York accepted the compromise to preserve the peace.

[12] John Watts – Polemic and Politics in the 1450’s; Margaret Lucille Kekewich et al (Eds) – The Politics of Fifteenth Century England: John Vale’s Book (Allan Sutton Publishing 1995) at page 34; see also P A Johnson – Duke Richard of York 1411-1460 (Oxford1991 corrected edition) pp. 212-219.

[13] Watts at p35.

Swords associated (one way or another) with Richard III….

Richard at Bosworth

The sword was a vital weapon in the medieval period (as can be seen in the hand-to-hand combat in the illustration of Bosworth above) and there would not have been a knight, lord, magnate or king who did not possess a minimum of one. Most would have had a number. We will never know how many swords Richard III possessed, but as far as I am concerned, there are five swords I associate with him…and one of these may have been made for his son. These swords are not all real weapons, some are from art. Only the first actual sword in the following list could have belonged to Richard himself, and of this, only part may remain of the original, as he presented it to the City of Gloucester in 1483.

Mourning Sword, Gloucester

Mourning Sword of Gloucester

This was on display at the recent Richard III Exhibition in Gloucester. Tradition says that it is Richard III’s own personal sword, given to the Mayor of Gloucester during Richard’s 1483 visit. The silver decoration is in the Elizabethan style, and says ‘Francisco me fecit’. A bladesmith of that name was working in Toledo in the 1570s, which means that these elements of the sword post-date Richard’s period. But if you look closely at the handle you will see there is an iron core beneath the silverwork. This may be what remains of the sword given by Richard. I am not sure why it is called the Mourning Sword, which we also described here.

Ceremonial Sword of State for the Prince of Wales

“Though the blade of the above sword was made in Germany, its pommel and hilt are English. Its ornamentation indicates it was meant for the Prince of Wales: its engraved hilt shows the Royal arms of England being held aloft by two angels above the arms of Wales and Cornwall; the opposite has the arms of the Earldoms of March and Chester. This double edged sword was thus not meant for battle, but would have been carried before the Prince during ceremonial processions, such as when he was invested with his title.” Two Princes also held the title of Earl of Chester in the late 15th century. Edward IV’s oldest son, also named Edward…and Richard III’s son Edward… The above photograph is from the British Museum and you can see some very detailed photographs of this ceremonial sword here.

 

Richard-III-Broken-Sword-235456-Society-of-Antiquaries-of-London

Broken Sword Portrait

Not my favourite Richard portrait by any means, and certainly not my favourite sword because, being broken, it bestows an entirely false impression of the man himself – “…A broken sword can be interpreted as symbolic of failure; in a regal portrait, as symbolic of prematurely ended reign by violence, battle, deposition and usurpation…” The only reason Richard “failed” was because he was betrayed, not because of any shortcomings on his part. Just think, a few more yards and he’d have extinguished Henry Tudor! If only he had! As for usurpation, well we all know who did that, and it wasn’t Richard!

Damage to Richard's sword - statue in Leicester

Sword held by Richard’s Statue in Leicester

From the Leicester Mercury. A council spokesman said: “We became aware of the damage to the Richard III statue early last week and are liaising with specialist companies to investigate the best way of repairing it. “The joint at the hilt of the sword has been bent. We do not yet know the extent or cause of the damage. A detailed survey will be carried out later this week, but it is likely that the damage will cost several thousand pounds to put right. “In the meantime, the statue will be fenced off as a safety precaution.” There will always be morons around who think such criminal damage is funny.

From Rous

My fifth and final sword is from Rous. As you see, the illustration depicts Richard in full armour, holding a sword that seems to be half his height in length. He may have been a slightly built man, but he was master of the sword (and every other weapon a knight needed to use). This little picture rather brings the fighting Richard to life for me.

Well, that’s five swords. Would anyone add more?

 

 

 

Was Roland de Velville the son of Henry VII….?

henry-vii-london-bridge

The following article is necessarily filled with supposition, inference and sneaking suspicion. The result of smoke and mirrors, you ask? Well, I think it is all much more substantial than that, as I hope to explain in the coming paragraphs.

Today (25th June) in 1545, died a man by the name of Roland de Velville (or Vielleville, Veleville, Vieilleville, and other variations). He crops up at regular intervals in connection with the first Tudor king, Henry VII. Why? Because of a persistent whisper that Roland was Henry’s illegitimate son. Well, his son, but no one can really categorically state he was illegitimate. All that can be claimed is that he was born sometime during Henry’s exile in Brittany between 1471 and 1485, and that when he arrived in England he was soon rumoured to be Henry’s unacknowledged child, born any time from about 1472 on, when Henry himself was only fourteen or fifteen.

It needs to be mentioned here that medieval kings usually acknowledged any offspring fathered before their official royal marriages, so there would not appear to be any reason why Henry would not admit to Roland. (I can think of at least one very good reason, but will save that until the end of this article.)

Roland was a member of the Breton nobility, an écuyer or esquire who may have accompanied Henry on the invasion of 1485. It is not known whether or not the boy fought at Bosworth, but my guess would be that he was probably too young. However, in 1489 he was certainly old enough to be in Sir John Cheyne’s retinue for the Breton expedition commanded by Sir Robert Willoughby.

1489-brittany

 The comment has been made that Roland was an ‘almost obsessive’ jouster, and was closely involved with the king’s falcons. It seems probable that he accompanied Henry VII when he went hunting and hawking. He appears to have been tolerated by English aristocrats, who must have been aware that he was favoured by the king. If that were not the case, I doubt Roland would have come even close to tournaments and the like. Roland’s life style would have been expensive, but Henry supported him, granting occasional gifts and allowing him an income from the royal revenues. Roland held no official position, he was simply there, enjoying himself, participating in royal pastimes and generally floating along. As we would all like to, given the chance.

Conjecture about him must have been rife, but that was all it amounted to. Conjecture. Because no one was party to the facts, not even Roland himself. Or so I guess, because his character was such that I doubt he’d have held his tongue and been discreet. He appears to have been of an unruly temperament, headstrong, irksome, arrogant and inclined to indulge in slander. Not at all like his subtle father. Well, rumoured father.

battle-of-roncevaux-pass-large

Might Roland have been named after the great 11th-century hero, Roland of Roncevaux? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland) If Henry Tudor really was his father, it strikes me as very much in keeping with Henry’s grand ideas concerning his legendary ancestry. After all, did he not give the name Arthur to his first son by Elizabeth of York?

It was not until the reign of his “half-brother”, Henry VIII, that Roland received any real advancement. From Henry VII he had been given this and that in the way of minor money, and had been kept at royal expense, but there was nothing worthwhile. Except, of course, for being knighted at the Battle of Blackheath in June 1497. But he was still Breton, not English. It was to be 1512 before he received that acknowledgement.

 battle-of-blackheath-1497

Battle of Blackheath

 On the death of Henry VII on 21st April 1509, the new 17-year-old king Henry VIII did not exactly shower Roland with brotherly goodies. Within weeks (3rd July 1509) Roland was appointed Constable of Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey, and was given, during pleasure, an annuity of £20. After twenty-five years or so of luxury at court, Roland was on his way to Wales pdq, as the jargon goes. Young Henry clearly did not want his awkward kinsman around. Tudor angst required being rid of anyone of dangerous royal blood, and Roland, if he was indeed a half-sibling, would almost certainly make Henry VIII twitchy. Send him away to the sticks, and if he became a problem, an accident might befall him. At least, that is how I interpret it. Especially, perhaps, as Roland was said to greatly resemble Henry.

 

Hmm, the above portrait of Henry VIII at eighteen (right) doesn’t look like the ogre we now know and, er, love. Indeed, he looks almost identical to his father at that age (above left). But while we know how Henry VII changed as he grew older, remaining lean and almost gaunt, it has to be said that Henry VIII changed a whole lot more, becoming the odious, gross King Hal who was so obsessed with producing male heirs that he was prepared to get through six wives in the process. Did Roland change in the same way? Not the six wives part, of course, but might the Constable of Beaumaris Castle become as awful and bloated as his half-brother the king?

This latter point raises an interesting question. Let us imagine that Roland and Henry were indeed half-brothers. It is generally accepted that for looks Henry VIII took after his maternal grandfather, the Yorkist king Edward IV (who was also tall and handsome, but became gross in his later years). If this were so, how could Roland also look like Edward IV? There was no blood connection. If the resemblance between the two half-siblings were that pronounced as to cause comment, then it has to be wondered if, perhaps, similar tall, handsome, “reddish-golden” looks were also to be found on Henry VII’s side? To my eyes, the first Tudor king and his mother have “Beaufort” stamped upon them. Some of Henry VII’s portraits are interchangeable with his mother. Both have high foreheads and cheekbones, small chins, hooded eyes and a general resemblance to the weasel. Put him in a wimple, and there she is!

What we do not know, of course, is what the earlier Tudors looked like. There are no portraits of Henry’s father, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, only a reproduction tomb engraving(below left). Nor are there portraits of his father, Owen Tudor. If, indeed, Owen had anything to do with fathering Edmund, there being yet another scandalous royal whisper that Owen’s “wife” (there is no solid evidence that she and Owen ever married) Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry V, had actually been enjoying some hanky-panky with another Beaufort, who for whatever reason declined to marry her. Owen stepped in to make things less embarrassing for her. Tangled webs in every shadow. But let’s suppose that the earlier Tudors were indeed Henry VII’s forebears. They might have been tall and reddish-blond. Well, they could have been, so do not wag your fingers at my screen! The Vikings did NOT steer clear of Wales.

Whatever the reason for Roland and Henry VIII sharing physical similarities—and maybe it was simply coincidence—it could have been with some relief that Roland scurried off to Beaumaris with his neck still attached to the rest of him. Better to be alive, than meet some dark Tudor death because of being regarded as an awkward presence at court. On the other hand, he may well have resented Beaumaris for taking him away from luxury. It was said in 1534 (the year before Roland’s death) that the never-completed castle had deteriorated so that “there was scarcely a single chamber in Beaumaris Castle where a man could lie dry”.

beaumaris-castle

Given Roland’s character, it will come as no surprise that he was a troublesome constable, making all the capital he could from his privileges. Twenty-five or so years at court had undoubtedly given him expensive tastes. But whether he liked it or not, the rest of his life was to be spent at Beaumaris where he began to live (scandalously, of course) with widowed Agnes Griffith, whom he would eventually make his wife. She was a member of the most powerful family in Gwynedd, and had children with Roland. Their descendants were numerous, and included his famous granddaughter, Catherine of Berain, known as the ‘Mother of Wales’. Roland de Velville certainly left his mark in his wife’s homeland.

catherine-of-berain-rolands-granddaughter

Roland died at Beaumaris Castle on 25th June 1535, and was buried at the Church of St Mary’s and St Nicholas, Beaumaris. If he was indeed buried there, I cannot find anything about his actual resting place. I have not been to the church, so it does not signify that he is no longer there, just that he’s escaped me. How intriguing it would be (the discovery of Richard III’s DNA being so fresh in the mind) to see if Roland’s DNA could be obtained. That would indeed help to ascertain if he was Henry VII’s offspring.

st-mary-and-st-nicholas-beaumaris

There is a lot of conflicting information about Roland. Was he of royal blood? Or wasn’t he? Who said what, and when? To whom? Can a Welsh elegy to him, by Daffyd Alaw (1535), be given any credence whatsoever? Well, it claims that Roland was ‘A man of kingly line and of earl’s blood’, which would certainly fit Henry VII, who had been born Henry, Earl of Richmond (he was born posthumously). So yes, Roland could well have been Henry’s son. Why else was he brought to the English court and supported in the way he was? And those who say that such bardic traditions should be ignored as highly improbable should perhaps remember that bardic tradition was how Welsh history was recorded. It was committed to memory and and passed down through the generations. The Welsh are clever enough to train their grey cells!

Historians have been rude about each other where this mysterious Breton écuyer is concerned. That is, if he was even Breton. Yes, I fear the conflicting ‘evidence’ even calls this basic fact into question. Maybe his mother’s family hailed from a corner of France. You see, we do not know her identity either.

rolands-mystery-mother

It seems that Roland was granted arms that were quartered, indicating the families from whom he was descended. They do not, of course, include Henry. But although these families can be hazarded, they cannot be identified for certain, So, who was his mother? Did she marry someone called de Velville (or other variations of the name in both French and Breton)? Maybe this man believed the boy was his. He wouldn’t be the first to have another man’s child foisted upon him. But, yet again, it’s guesswork. All is vague and uncertain.

To read an intricate account of it all, with far more small detail, go to http://www.happywarrior.org/genealogy/roland.htm

And now I will tell you why I think Henry VII did not acknowledge Roland. No, it’s not that Roland simply wasn’t his son, what a boring conclusion to come to. Far more interesting to make the two father and son. What if (ah, those words beloved of fiction writers) a teenaged Henry had fallen passionately, lustfully in love with, and impetuously married, a young, equally passionate and lustful Breton noblewoman? What if it was a secret wedding that never came to light and was soon regretted on both sides? What if Henry was moved elsewhere in Brittany (he was a prisoner under house arrest) and his bride (frightened by her important male relatives, who knew nothing of the secret marriage, was forced to bigamously marry someone “suitable”. Pregnant with Henry’s child, she allowed her new husband to believe the child was his.

Are you still with me? Right, move on to 1485. Henry is going to invade England to challenge Richard III for the throne. To be sure of much-needed Yorkist support, he vows to marry Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece and the senior unmarried Yorkist princess. He wins at Bosworth and has to honour his vow. Sooo…knowing he is already married, he weds Elizabeth. Another bigamous match, but one that could have catastrophic consequences. Not least bloody rebellion and the chopping of Henry’s slender neck.

Then Roland enters his life much more immediately. The boy’s mother is on her deathbed and fears for his life at the hands of her second husband. She implores Henry to take Roland under his protection. And so he comes to court but cannot possibly be acknowledged by his royal father, who, understandably, doesn’t want any enemies poking around in what happened when he was a young prisoner in Brittany. Nor does Roland even know Henry is his father.

Thus history repeats itself, with Henry VII following in the footsteps of his father-in-law, Edward IV. Another secret wife, a second deceived bride, and heirs who are all illegitimate. Roland de Velville is his legitimate son. The rightful King of England? But can even Henry contemplate disposing of this inconvenient boy…? His own child?

There, is that not a half-decent plot for a historical novel? I thought so too, so I made it the main theme of the fourth book in my Cicely series. The book is called Cicely’s Sovereign Secret.

cicelys-sovereign-secret

 

 

CARDINAL JOHN MORTON’S TOMB CHAPEL OF LADY UNDERCROFT CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL.

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On Friday 13th June 1483 Cardinal Morton, along with others, was arrested at the Tower of London.  It is well documented the role Morton played in the downfall of Richard lll.  Morton was Richard’s arch enemy and his deviousness, cunning and powers of manipulation being  well known,  there is no need to go into them here in detail,  only to recap briefly on his enforced stay at Brecknock castle where he latched on to the flawed Buckingham’s shallow and vainglorious character (what were you thinking of Richard?!)  inveigling him to rebel and  desert Richard, a  result of the ensuing rebellion being that Buckingham was swiftly defeated,  captured and ignominiously executed, while he, Morton, legged it to the Fens and his ‘see of Ely, where he found both money and friends’ (1)   It should be noted that Margaret Beaufort’s estate at Collyweston was but  a short distance of 40 miles  from Ely.     Morton then  ‘sailed into  Flanders, where he remained,   doing good service to the the  Earl of Richmond until the scheme at Brecknock had been realised and the Earl had become king of England’ (2 ).  As Bishop of Ely Morton would have been very conscious of the sanctity of the Coronation ceremony  but this did in no way deter him from playing a prominent role in the betrayal of King Richard.  How he came to terms with his treachery is difficult to understand,  and is of course something we will never know,  but manage he did somehow and the rest is history.

His achievements are likewise well known and numerous,  including “Tudor” promoting him to the see of Canterbury and  Lord Chancellor in 1487,  eventually prevailing on the Pope to make him a cardinal  , the conceiving of the infamous Morton’s Fork – although to be fair some attribute this to Bishop Fox (3) – and his patronage of the young Thomas More who served in his household as a page.  Morton was without doubt an enormous influence in poisoning the young More against Richard.  More  later went on to write his ‘History’ which has proven to be extremely  damaging to Richard’s memory as it is oft quoted by ‘historians’ who should know better.  It is believed by some that it was in fact Morton who was the original  author including the late Professor A F  Pollard who opined Morton wrote a latin version which More translated later  into English (4).

It is easy to imagine, as he lay dying, after achieving what was a good age in those harsh times, that Morton felt rather pleased with himself for had he not been instrumental in achieving practically the impossible?..the slaughter of a rightful king and replacing him with someone with very tenuous claims to the throne.  He had already made elaborate plans for where he wanted to be buried.in the Chapel of our Lady in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral beneath the pavement of the western bay.

‘He had chosen the spot himself as a quiet and retired one, “non in tumultu sed in secreto subterraneoque loco in criptis nuncupato, lapide duntaxat coopertus marmoreo coran Imagine Beatissime Virgin Marie, quam ex intimo diligebat sepulture locum elegit ubi ipsius corpus felicissimum jam quiescit” ‘ (5)

Which translates as he  had chosen for his burial ‘not an ostentatious place but rather a secret one with a simple marble cover before an image of the most blessed Virgin Mary., whom he held in very high esteem and where his most fortunate body might rest in peace’

A splendid  altar tomb/cenotaph  was built nearby which incorporated Morton’s rebus of a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun), and the Tudor badges of  portcullis and rose.  And here he was laid to rest.

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Morton’s rebus, a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun)

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Morton’s  altar tomb/cenotaph in the western bay of the chapel

IMG_3631.JPGAlabaster figure of Morton on his tomb/cenotaph

However, this is where his plans finally went awry.   The crypt became a ‘repository for scaffolding poles and building material, and rendered unfit for sacred purposes’ (6)

 

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Turner’s painting of the Crypt in the 18th century showing Morton’s Tomb/Cenotaph amid building rubble

 The slab covering the tomb was eventually broken and smashed and the remains in their cere cloth  revealed   Over a period of time these were gradually stolen until none were left except his skull which a Ralph Sheldon rescued in 1670 leaving it to his niece on  his death.    Eventually the head  found a final resting place  at Stonyhurst College, where  it still is to this very day.  The head was  recently loaned to an exhibition on the life of  Thomas More in Washington DC (7).   It is both ironic and just that the king that Morton callously betrayed,  and whose remains were given a cut-price burial in Leicester,  have now been reburied with the honour that he deserved,  while all that remains of Morton is his head in a box in a cupboard.   As they say man makes plans and the Gods laugh…

As a footnote to this story in my delving around I think I may have come across a ‘secret’ portrait of Morton in the wonderful medieval windows of St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire.  These windows have survived it is believed because they show hidden portraits of the Tudor royal family and important members of Henry Vll’s court.  One portrait is described as being that of Wolsey…but I believe this is erroneous..why would Wolsey’s portrait being included with those of Henry Vll and his family including Henry Vlll as a child.  I have since compared it with that of the wooden bosses thought to represent Morton at Bere Regis Church.  I show them here for comparison.  Any thoughts?

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The portrait in the nave of St Mary’s Church described as being of Wolsey? But could it possibly be Morton?  

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One of the bosses on the roof of Bere Regis Church thought to represent Morton for comparison.

(1) R L Woodhouse The Life of John Morton Archbishop of Canterbury p.75

(2) Ibid

(3) W E Hampton Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p96.

( 4) A F Pollard Luminarium Encyclopedia.  On line article.

(5) C Eveleigh Woodruff.M.A. The Chapel of our Lady in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral p. 158.

(6) Ibid

(7) I am most grateful for this information kindly given to me by Mr J Reed,  Assistant Curator of the  College Collections and Museum by the Association, Stonyhurst College.

An excellent article about Richard, but some weird ideas amid the comments….

Richard-III-Bosworth

Here is another fine article by Matthew Lewis, concerning whether or not Richard III was a villain, or a good king. Matt is, as always, excellent to read, and puts forward the strong case that Richard was good. Well, we all know this to be so, but some of the comments following the article are a little inaccurate, to say the least.

For instance, concerning Elizabeth Woodville: “Elizabeth Woodville may have been sent to a convent some 15 months after she was reinstated as Queen Dowager, but she was granted several grants of land and rights and her titles. She was very wealthy when she died and was not mistreated in any way.”

I think not! She was bundled off to Bermondsey Abbey (a male monastery), and her lands and so on were handed over to her daughter, by then Henry VII’s queen. Henry did not treat Elizabeth Woodville kindly, and she lived on a mere allowance. She was far from wealthy when she died, as she stated in her will. Henry Tudor was not a loving son-in-law, but a spiteful one. Richard had great cause to dislike Elizabeth Woodville, but nevertheless treated her well.

http://www.royalcentral.co.uk/blogs/history/the-real-white-queen-a-defence-of-king-richard-iii-13421

 

No more chocolate-box boys in the Tower, PLEASE….!

 

And to cap it all, we even have Kittens in the Tower!

Kittens in the Tower

Oh, for heaven’s sake!

Right, there is a famous “story” about one of our 15th-century princes of Wales, specifically Edward of Lancaster (or Westminster), seven-year-old son and heir of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. The fame goes that after the 2nd Battle of St Albans, which his side won, his mother asked him to decide the fate of two opposition knights who had been found guarding his father, the captive, rather weak-minded Henry VI. Little Edward chose to have their heads lopped off, even though his father protested. The prince was to eventually come off worst at the Battle of Tewkesbury, at the age of eighteen. (There are various versions of how he died, and at whose hand.)

Royal boys had armour in those days, and there are examples in the White Tower. Was Edward wearing something like this at the time of his supposed seven-year-old bloodthirstiness?

Well, of course, no one knows if the story is true. If it is, the adjective “bloodthirsty” is well earned where Edward of Lancaster is concerned. If it’s untrue, well, he is exonerated. But, given all the ferocious training young aristocratic and royal boys had to go through from the age of seven, he would certainly have already been faced with the brutal reality of medieval warfare. They all were. They learned to handle weapons that could kill, and were shown exactly how to put an end to an opponent. Some idea of this can be seen at http://www.lordsandladies.org/knighthood-training.htm and the following illustrations show more.

quintain - 3stages of knighthood

be master of all this

Imagine our little boys being confronted with such an armoury, and told they will be expected to be master of it all before they’re even men. Imagine them even being sent away to strangers to start learning how to shed blood. Unthinkable.

Like Edward of Lancaster, Richard of Gloucester (the future Richard III) is another example of this same rigorous knightly tuition from the age of seven, and learned every battle skill he might ever need. And he was very good at it. By seventeen he had his own independent command, and took part in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. It was expected of him, and he met the challenge.

The boys in the Tower were Richard’s nephews. The elder was another Edward, Prince of Wales of questionable legitimacy (there are considerable doubts that Henry VI was Edward of Lancaster’s father), and was coming up for thirteen when he and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury (aged ten) were ensconced in the royal apartments of the Tower in 1483, after their father’s unexpected death. Both boys would have been well into their training.

They were princes of the blood. They were educated, conditioned with a sense of their superiority and importance, and learning the hows and ways of defending themselves in battle. So, in my opinion, big-eyed, clingy, vulnerable, little golden angels they were not. Yet all we see are paintings that follow the same melted-marshmallow theme.

Do we ever see similar gushing illustrations of little eight-year-old Richard of Gloucester, in exile, clinging to his not-much-older brother George of Clarence after the deaths of their father and another elder brother, Edmund? No. Why? Because there are Tudor pawmarks all over the advent of the nauseating chocolate-box images. For the advent of everything concerning the boys of 1483, in fact. There is no evidence that they were killed at all, let alone by their wicked Uncle Richard. And they weren’t in a dungeon in the tower, they were in the royal palace apartments. Theories of their fate abound, of course, but that is not of concern here. And—whisper it loudly!—the Tudors themselves weren’t without good motive for despatching the boys.

Anyway, if I never see another sugary portrait of these yucky little angels, I will be well pleased.

(On another note entirely, there is another Murrey and Blue post about how portraits can influence us. See https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/can-a-picture-paint-a-thousand-words/)

Annette Carson: in sympathy with King Richard

To the delight of travelers across the globe, tired of lugging all those hard-copy books on planes, trains and automobiles, Annette Carson’s Richard III The Maligned King has just been released in ebook form and can now be purchased on Amazon.com.  Along with John Ashdown-Hill, Carson is part of a new generation of historians who have pushed forward new-found information that has helped to rehabilitate Richard the Third’s reputation in the 21st century with an energy matched only by their scholarship and dogged research.

Originally published in 2008, Richard III The Maligned King is not a biography but an examination of what happened from the moment his brother, Edward IV, died to his own untimely death.  It relies almost solely on contemporary accounts and moves in a direct timeline that makes enthralling reading.  Carson displays a ready wit and is not afraid to take on the hoary myths that cling to traditional historians like Spanish moss on a crumbling hacienda.

Although busy with new projects, Carson was able to spend a few moments with The Murrey and Blue to share her thoughts on Richard the Third and her background which led her to write about the maligned king.

Can you give us a little information on your background, Annette?

Like many people of my generation (I was born in 1940 and grew up in a single-parent family) I couldn’t afford a university education.  Music ran in my family and I was guided towards the Royal College of Music but I soon knew it wasn’t for me.  I married an actor and joined the staff of RADA as Front of House Manager, and then spent the next twenty years working the entertainment industry, including spells at Equity and Thames TV.

By 1984, having been involved for ten years in the sport of aerobatics and produced a fair amount of aviation writing and journalism, I was invited to co-author a book on aerobatic technique which was well received.  I was then commissioned to write a world history of aerobatics, which kicked off my professional writing career.  I enjoy technical writing and the research that goes with it, which in this case entailed learning Russian and took me to four continents.  That book sold 14,000 copies and my next book, a biography of the rock guitarist, Jeff Beck, is still in print and has sold over 15,000.

As you can tell, I follow where my muse takes me…so when other authorial ideas didn’t take off (I was JUST beaten to the draw on a proposed biography of Alan Rickman!) it occurred to me to put my ideas about Richard III into a book.

I’d been fascinated by Richard since 1955 when I was taken to see Olivier’s film of Richard III on a school trip.  Already a great lover of Shakespeare, I had never thought to doubt his mesmerizing portrayal of villainy.  So it hit me like a thunderbolt when my teacher said that many people considered him to have been a very good king whose reputation was deliberately blackened.  I’m something of a campaigner at heart – I took a particular injustice as far as the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights – so from my schooldays onwards I read as much as possible to try to uncover the truth.

Can you tell us something about your research methods?

Obviously, the ideas in my book had been germinating throughout decades of reading, so I had a lot in place by the time of the first draft in about 2002.  Fortunately, many of the standard sources were in print long before the internet became the resource it is today and my research entailed mining the documents and articles referenced by writers from Paul Murray Kendall onwards.  That’s my advice to anyone wanting to delve into where our ideas about history stem from:  become a reader of footnotes!

Paul Murray Kendall’s footnotes alone are worth the price of the book and often overlooked when traditionalists criticize him.  You did not write a biography of Richard.  Why?

I specifically didn’t want to write a biography because I was interested only in certain aspects of the years 1483-1485.  I had formulated several original ideas I wanted to explore, starting with what was known of the bones discovered in the 17th century and thought to be Richard’s nephews.  A major item of interest was to visualize exactly where they were found and what the staircase was like and the terrain around that area.  For this I got plans from Historic Royal Palaces and called on expert help from a civil engineer in order to commission an illustration – the only image I know that accurately depicts the discovery site based on contemporary descriptions, aided by illustrations, surveys and plans of the Tower.  I also wanted to highlight the importance of the jaw disease of the elder skull, and how significant this would have been if it had belonged to the heir of the crown.

Another thing I was keen to research was witchcraft in England in the 15th century, something which, because it already interested me, I knew the usual run of historians got completely wrong and still do.  There were many other original ideas – too many to mention – but several have now entered the general Ricardian discourse:  e.g. my taking apart all the myth-making in Vergil like Henry Tudor’s supposed oath to marry Elizabeth and the story that her mother meekly gave him her hand thinking her sons were dead.  Until then it had always been recited as genuine ‘history’.  And then, of course, my introduction of Richard’s bride-to-be Princess Joanna of Portugal, complete with colour portrait, whose existence had been known to readers of scholarly works but only as a shadowy figure.  I still maintain (with support from Arthur Kincaid) that my reading of Elizabeth of York’s letter in the Portuguese context is the only one that satisfactorily explains what the young Elizabeth was referring to.

Joanna must be one of the most under-reported stories in the history of Richard III.  Do you consider yourself a Ricardian?

By the time I finished in 2005 I had already written 160,000 words, so you can imagine how long a biography would have been!  My overall concern was (and is) always to set 15th-century events firmly in the relevant 15th century context.

I like to call myself a Ricardian because I am in sympathy with King Richard but I have to be careful of the word these days because it’s beginning to be used to signify blinkered adulation.  As recently as last year the President of the Richard III Society used the term ‘Ricardian translation’ to mean a pro-Richard whitewash.  I have no problem with anyone who admires Richard or with novelists who fictionalize him but it’s worrying when the boundaries get blurred and even Ricardians sometimes fail to make a distinction.

Occasionally I have to check your book and other non-fiction to see whether ‘a fact’ I’m using in an argument is indeed true or was inserted in one of the many novels written about the king.  It gets confusing.

Let’s be clear that I’m all in favour of speculation, because it can open up startling new trains of thought – and the Ricardian ground is so well-trodden that any new way of looking at something can be good for broadening horizons!  It’s sad, actually, that so many readers want a book about history to be a history lesson, and so many historians want to give them precisely that, right down to psychological profiling.  Whereas my job as a non-fiction writer is to explain how few and tenuous are those things that could be deemed factual, and to offer alternative constructions to conjure with and ponder upon.  I say what I think, and what others think but I don’t tell you they are the only conclusions.

What are you working on now?

I’m afraid there won’t be any new work on Richard III.  Unfortunately, I’ve found the atmosphere around Ricardian studies growing distinctly uncongenial and egocentric, so I’ve returned to aviation.  I am presently researching a biography of a courageous young World War I pilot which I hope to be ready for his commemoration in 2018.

My last Ricardian outing is assisting Arthur Kincaid with his updated and revised edition of Sir George Buc’s History of Richard III, which involves many interesting discussions and much repeated proof-reading.  Interestingly, the reason for Dr. Kincaid’s departure from the Ricardian community thirty years ago resembles mine.  It took considerable encouragement and persuasion for him to return to Buc, and I promise that when it’s published it will contain a treasure-trove of accurate and illuminating footnote references to delve into.

So you haven’t completely moved on from the maligned king!  I look forward to being able to buy both of your new books.  Thank you so much for sharing your time with the Murrey & Blue and I hope everyone purchases this new electronic edition .

annette 3

MISTRESS OF THE MAZE—Rosamund Clifford, Lover of King Henry II

Jane Shore is one of the most famous royal mistresses and certainly the prime one of the 15th century. Arguably, however, the most famous royal mistress in medieval English history  is the enigmatic Rosamund de Clifford, known as ‘Fair Rosamund’ or ‘Rose of the World.’

Like Jane, Rosamund seemed to have received a generally benign treatment from historians and later writers, despite one of her contemporaries, Gerald of Wales, making a cruel pun on her name and calling her ‘The Rose of Unchastity.’ In comparison Edward III’s young mistress Alice Perrers, was often depicted as greedy and grasping, and King John’s mistress, ‘queen’ Clementia, was mocked for giving herself regal airs and graces. Just as writers from Thomas More onwards lauded Jane Shore for her beauty and generosity and overlooked her dubious liaisons with William Hastings and Thomas Grey, Rosamund was generally seen in a wholly favourable manner, with her ‘rival,’ Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, taking the part of the villain, despite being the injured party, so to speak. Henry, a notorious womaniser just like his descendant Edward IV, seemed to get no blame for anything at all.

The Victorians and pre-Raphaelites who painted interpretations of Rosamund’s legend painted Rosamund as timid and meek, even a little simple-looking, while Eleanor was shown as being crafty and hard, with a sallow skin, pinched features and hooked nose—despite in reality being a notable beauty of the age herself. It appears Eleanor, being rather liberated for the era she lived in, was deemed by the Victorians as ‘unnatural’and unwomanly, having sought an annulment from her first marriage to Louis of France to marry the younger Henry and then by inciting her sons to rebel against their father. Rumours also abounded of consensual flings in her youth, including with her own uncle. Far better, it seemed, to be a naïve young girl at the command of the much older king than a determined ‘hussy’ like Eleanor who dared to do what SHE wanted!

Some attempts were made to change the more ‘unsavoury’ elements of Rosamund’s story to make it more palatable to the mores of 19th century readers. Suddenly she was not a young girl but of an age with the King—his first sweetheart whom he had married in secret, making her his rightful wife. This was nonsense; Rosamund’s parentage is known and accordingly the birthdates of her parents and siblings and, in all likelihood, Rosamund herself. In reality, she was probably only a teenager when she met Henry, and their affair seems to have started around 1166-7, when Henry’s youngest son John was born. Equally, the myth,also originating in this time, that she was the mother of Henry’s two most famous bastards, William Longspee and Geoffrey Plantagenet, Archbishop of York, has been proven to be false. Recently discovered documents show that William’s mother was Ida de Tosney, Duchess of Norfolk, and not only was Geoffrey too old to be Rosamund’s child, chroniclers wrote that his mother was a prostitute called Ykenai.

Rosamund, of course, is famous not just for the affair with King Henry but also for being kept in a maze near the now-vanished palace of Woodstock. The maze, which was meant to keep her safe from Eleanor, almost certainly did not exist, but there is ground disturbance at the site and a house may have once existed, perhaps with some kind of ornate garden, that had been built or adapted for Rosamund’s use. A well still flows on the spot, which has been known as Rosamund’s Well for around four hundred years at least, although its earliest known name was Everswell.

And what about the dramatic tale of Rosamund being murdered in person by Eleanor, given the choice of poison or a dagger? (Versions that are even more lurid have her roasted between two fires and attacked by toads!) Toads or no toads, murder by Eleanor is almost certainly untrue, since the Queen was imprisoned at the time Rosamund died, and no Queen would personally attend to such matter anyway, vengeful or not. There is a vague possibility one of her agents could have done the deed on her behalf, but at that time, the Queen had no finances to pay an assassin, being in straightened circumstances and reduced to sharing a bed with her maid in Old Sarum Castle.

However, what is known is that Henry officially announced his relationship with Rosamund to the court in 1174 and spoke of an annulment of his marriage with Eleanor shortly thereafter. A mere two years later, Rosamund had departed Woodstock and retired to Godstow nunnery, and then, abruptly, she was dead. Chroniclers say she died before the age of thirty. So something unfortunate did happen to Rosamund, though whether her death was natural or more sinister is impossible to say.

Henry did appear to genuinely love Rosamund, although his mistresses were legion—including, but not limited to, Annabel de Balliol, Duchess Ida, Alice de Porhoet (whose father was furious), Alis of France who was intended for his son Richard (only a rumour but possible given his reputation for seducing his wards), and the intriguingly named BelleBelle, for whom he brought rich robes at the same time as he brought gowns for the Queen. He ordered a lavish tomb made for Rosamund, which was raised before the high altar in Godstow Priory, and made monetary payments to the prioress.

The tomb became something of a shrine, decked with flowers and candles, until the arrival of Bishop Hugh of Lincoln in the years following Henry’s own death. Bishop Hugh was scandalised at the seeming veneration of the tomb of an ‘unchaste’ woman and ordered it removed to the nuns’ cemetery. It was duly dismantled and placed against the wall of the chapterhouse, where it was still visible for some years after the Dissolution. Around this time, a house was built incorporating the priory ruins, and when this was subequently destroyed in the Civil War, most of the remaining features of the priory vanished with it.

Rosamund has appeared in art and in song, and features in several novels about Henry II and his family, including by Sharon Penman, author of the famous Ricardian novel, The Sunne in Splendour. One solitary novel solely from Rosamund’s point of view was written in the 1970’s by Philippa Wiat, the Philippa Gregory of her day, but it was oddly flat and unexciting. However, in early 2017 MISTRESS OF THE MAZE was released, containing solid historical facts while incorporating the more fantastical elements of the legend, such as the Maze at Woodstock. Rosamund here is not the simpering icon beloved by overwrought Vctorian artists but a tragic flesh and blood woman caught up in the midst of the marital entanglements of Kings.

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Godstow Priory

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